Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Easy fixins

As I wrote, I'm a lazy cook, or more precisely, a 5-minute cook. Well this ain't too bad if you know what to do and you don't want to eat heat-and-serve meals found in aisles of frozen freezer sections of grocery store. You eat better and it's not that hard. Ok, example please.

Buy a fresh, preferably free-range, turkey breast or thigh (thighs are cheaper but have a different taste). Buy a medium-large potato, white, sweet, yam, etc, doesn't really matter except for personal preference. Buy a few fresh vegetables, eg. carrots, green beans, etc.

Buy your favorite gravy, preferably the only heat-and-serve part of the meal because gravy takes too much and too long to make from scratch or even a mix, for me anyway, as there are so few with little or no wheat.

[Note: If you don't read the ingredients in the foods you buy, start, becaues you'll be surprised all the junk in them, most of which are there to fake the taste (flavor, sugar, etc.) or preserve the food, and little is needed for the actual food itself.

An example is gravy. Read the ingredients and you'll find the main ingredients aren't what the food is sold as, such as turkey gravy where they often substitute chicken and vegetable gravy with turkey flavor along with a lot of spices to hide things.

It's why I have to pay attention since I can't (or shouldn't) eat wheat among a host of other foods, which you can learn about by searching for the word "FODMAPS", really, it's the chemicals naturally in foods my digestive system can't handle or digest.]

I'll preference this story with two appliances I have, a Breville "Smart Oven" which is great to put food in, set the type of cooking, temperature and time, and forget until it's done, and a Breville "Quick Touch" microwave oven, which is an excellent one for the price but has a few quirks.

Anyway, back to the story. Put the turkey, seasoned as you want - I use butter, brown sugar and orange peel - on a broiler pan with the potato, put in the oven, set to roast, 350 degrees for 1 hour, slightly longer for bigger thigh or breast.

Remember to cook the turkey to at least 165 degrees, why the oven is great, it stops when it's done and you can simply change the time to cook longer. It preheats the oven, cooks and shuts off. How hard is that?

I'll preference this with another note when about 20 years ago after cooking with a lots of odd pots and pans, I donated every last one and bought a complete set of Calaphalon commercial hard-anodized cookware and some of their bakeware.

The only exception I kept was a really old cast iron skillet. You can't go wrong with one of these, preferably two if you cook a lot of eggs you can dedicate one for just eggs. You treat them, keep them coated, only rarely wash them and treat them afterward, and they'll be your best cooking friend on the stove.

The Calaphalon cookware is absolutely the greatest stuff you can have for a kitchen. I have the whole suite of pots and pans outside the largest size. They make cooking a whole lot easier and better, and they will last you a lifetime.

Back to the story. You cut the vegetables up into slices, put in a double boiler and steam them for about 10-15 minutes depending on your taste for the firmness or softness of vegetables. Set them aside in a bowl with some butter and seasoning. I melt the butter to pour it on than let the heat of the vegetables melt it.

Once the potato and turkey is done you split the potato, spoon out the inside into a bowl, which will be the one you can, like me, eat from, mash with butter and seasonings. You cut enough of the turkey into pieces and add it to the potato along with some vegetables.

You microwave the gravy, and when nice and hot, pour it over the whole mess in the bowl, and there you have it, a homemade wheat-free  turkey pot pie in a bowl. And you save and microwave the turkey and vegetable to make more of this by just baking a fresh potato, making it quicker to fix next time.

The potato is easy to cook, just clean, put in the oven, set for 1 hour at 350 (I use roast instead of bake as it's a tad quicker), and then repeat the last step above to make mashed potato. Just add the fixin's and you good for another bowlful pot pie.

And, outside the gravy, it's all fresh food which are cheaper and better for you than any frozen food pot pie.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Coconut Macaroons

One thing I'm definitely not is a cook. I'm a 5-minute cook, meaning if I can't make or prepare for the oven in 5 minutes, I don't cook it unless it's something I really want to try, but I'm am decent at some foods in those 5 minutes.

And I'm definitely not a baker by any stretch since that takes far more than 5 minutes to do almost anything baking, but I'll often try somethings once, as long as it doesn't use wheat or other grains which I can't eat anymore.

To that end I scoured as many of the non-wheat brands of cookies and settled on coconut macaroons as a mainstay desert, and found only one brand, All But Gluten (a Canadian company) makes decent ones. The problem was finding stores that carried them consistently.

And that turned out to be Safeway, but only one in a 10+ mile radius of home, the local one, and even though they run out of them long before all the other All But Gluten foods, they don't reorder just them, which I learned why.

The local Safeway stores don't do their own ordering of many products. Because the information about all products sold are transmitted (like all restaurants and stores do now) to regional or main offices in real-time, and those office do the order for the stores.

This means the employees in the bakery department at Safeway don't know what has been ordered and when it will arrive. This does not include wholesale companies who supply and stock the shelves of Safeway stores independent of Safeway, such as breads, chips, beverages, etc.

So after they ran out two weeks ago and hearing the same story, "They're on order." for over a week I bought all the ingredients to make my own coconut macacroons, all 5 of them of which I already had 4, only missing shredded coconut.

Then I learned to make them using this recipe which takes about an hour start to finish, including browning the coconut first, and even cleaning the dishes and utensils. The photo above is the second batch I made today, and they are great, chewy and full of taste.

That said, I doubt I'll buy store coconut macaroons except for the times I'm lazy because these really show how much homemade is different and better with a little practice, even for a lazy cook like me. It's not that hard and you don't need any fancy appliances, just your mind and your hands.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Political Iceberg

What you're seeing with the politics over the 2015 Federal Omnibus funding bill in Congress, and the insertion of Republican amendments after the bipartisan negotiation agreement between Republicans and Democrats, is just the tip of the political iceberg for the 2015-16 Congress under Republican control.

You can bet every bill which passes Congress and sent to the President will have proverbial political poison pill with more amendments, provisions, etc. to undo everything the Democrats have accomplished, including the Affordable Care Act, and/or to unfund everything they don't want the federal government to do, such as immigration, EPA, IRS, education, etc.

And the bills will have enough for the President to want and face the reality of signing it, which they'll sweeten the bill to ensure it, or veto it, and then face the wrath of the media with either decision, sign it and face anger from Democrats or veto it and face the media accusing him of everything imaginable.

If you don't believe it, consider who's in charge in Congress, Speaker John Boehner in the House and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the Senate, both who hate the President and have no reason to negotiate or compromise with Democrats.

And for the next two years this is what we'll get, a President who has to agree with the Republicans to sign bills and face the anger of Democrats or not agree with the Republicans to support Democrats and face the anger of the Republicans and the media.

And you can bet with all their money the Republicans with their PAC's and Super PAC's will spend money hand over fist attacking the President and any presidential candidate and the Democrats from now through the 2016 elections. They have deep pockets now with the changes in the campaign finance rules for donations.

And you can bet with a 55-45 majority in the Senate, Mitch McConnell will change the filibuster rules in January 2016 to make filibusters harder for Democrats (so much for Harry Reid's gentlemen's agreement with McConnell) and make every political and judicial nominee a political fight.

The Republicans will tie up everything the Democrats and President wants to do and shove every Republican issue down their throats to accept or be forgotten. Only the Presidential veto will stand in their way, but they already have a plan for that, to make him swallow what he hates with what he wants.

Yeah, bipartisanship was cast adrift after this election, never to be seen again for two years. And the biggest loser is and will be the American people and our democracy. The Republicans will relish in the power to help the corporations and the wealthy and the power to restrict or eliminate everything for us.

This is what the voters elected. This is what they'll get. Don't look at me, I didn't vote for Republicans. To those who did vote for Republicans, if this is what you wanted, and I can't write what I'd like to say to you, and if it's not what you wanted, you got it anyway, and I can't write what I'd like to say to you.

So much for our democracy for the next two years. It's bought and paid for by the wealthy and the corporations and the Republicans will do what they say. Only one person can stand in their way, but he hasn't shown the courage and backbone to do that.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The President

The President, in agreeing to the Republican 2015 federal budget bill, has shown that he's no longer a democrat, but just a politician willing to sell his political values for the right price at the expense of the American people and our democracy. And it shows how he will govern for the next two years, like a Republican with no interest to serve the American people but to serve Republicans, corporations, and the wealthy. We didn't re-elect him for that, nor for selling us out to the Republicans. He has no will or interest to fight, and no interest and will to govern. He has lost the last vestiges of my respect for him as a democrat and President.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Apple Apps

It would be nice if Apple actually tested and debugged their own apps. Their latest iteration of IOS and more so OS-X is full of small bugs which causes user real problems, like bluetooth not working to iPhone 5-series phones with IOS 8, and endless error messages in the console log.

The former is very irritating as it's an IOS 8 with iPhone 5 problem, but not on the iPad with IOS 8 to Mac's on OS-X 10.10 or 10.10.1. I can't run any app which uses Bluetooth on the iPhone 5 to the Mac because the iPhone doesn't recognize the Mac, but the iPad does.

The latter is more frustration as both iTunes and the App store have similar error messages when you open them, only sometimes for iTunes but always for the App store. The messages start just after you open the app and log every 30-60 seconds, even after you close it.

You end up having to reboot the Mac to stop the error message. The first is iTunes which often writes a "discoveryd: Basic Sockets SetDelegatePID() failed...." message This message also often occurs if you open too many apps which requires an Internet connection.

The App Store error message is "kernal: BUG in process suhelper(PID no.): over-released legacy..." which goes on until you close the app, as does the message "storeaccountd: AccountServiceDelegate:..." message which isn't an error message, but a constant message.

You would think Apple developers were better than this to at least read the console log with release versions, and then test and debug those which write a lot of lines, so continuing after the app is closed.

You would think, but apparently Apple is more concerned about adding bells and whistles few people want than fixing the stuff they already have. If OS-X 10.10 was a car, only God would know how many recall notices would be required to fix it.